LAWLESS: Elizabeth Kuiper

Lawless is a series of articles which celebrate the stories, talents and passions of students at Melbourne Law School, beyond their experiences in law. This week features the talents and wit of Elizabeth Kuiper. So, Lizz… who are you when you’re not a law student?

When I’m not a law student, I am a big film / TV nerd

A friend of mine once revealed that she doesn’t really watch TV. Genuinely aghast, I asked her what she does with her time in the hours before bed. ‘Work out. Eat dinner. Do chores,’ she replied with a straight face. She is no longer my friend.

I’ve always liked film as an audience member as well as a creative medium. In high school I would spend hours and hours on Final Cut Pro, replaying clips a dozen times over just to trim off a millisecond, scouting for royalty-free music on Moby’s website (yes, I now know that he is the actual worst but mobygratis was a godsend back then).

In Year 12, a short film I made won ACMI’s ‘Screen It’ competition for school students (I was given a projector and everything!) After that, I was set on majoring in Cinema Studies and even took an elective in the first semester of my Arts degree. But the temptation to nod off during the weekly film screenings, held in a dark and incredibly cosy old lecture theatre, was too much for 18-year-old Lizz. Apparently, I needed harsh lighting and irritating philoso-bros to jolt me into paying attention in class. My auteur aspirations were rather short-lived. Mindy Kaling does not know who I am and I’ve yet to be invited to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s house to collaborate. Luckily, my old faithful friend, Television, is still there to distract me from these dashed dreams.  

I’m not a snob when it comes to genre. Love a good rom-com just as much a thriller. Dark British comedies are fantastic. A cheeky bit of Scandi Noir here and there. And sometimes you can’t beat a classic police procedural with a predictably comforting resolution in the closing scenes of the episode (especially if featuring Mariska Hargitay).  

Although I’m not a genre-snob, I do have some strong TV opinions:

Best show of all time: The Wire
Best sitcom: Seinfeld*
Best currently-airing sitcom: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

*Although, controversial opinion: you don’t have to be a ‘Seinfeld’ person or a ‘Friends’ person; they both have their place

And, getting niche for the intended audience:

Best lawyer show: Better Call Saul
Best Australian lawyer show: dead tie between Janet King and Rake (the earlier seasons)

When I’m not a law student, I am a writer

Little Stones, can be found in all good bookstores, including Dymocks, Readings and Booktopia.

In June, my debut novel, Little Stones, was released in bookstores. Back in 2017, I signed a publishing contract based on an idea I had for a novel and a very rough (30k-word) draft manuscript. The story is inspired by my own childhood experiences, having been raised by a single working mum in Mugabe-era Zimbabwe. I continued to write and edit the book throughout my first year-and-a-half of law school.

My book venture was something I didn’t really publicise to begin with and only a few close friends knew about it. Perhaps it was imposter syndrome, or tall poppy syndrome, but I felt the need to keep the news somewhat close to my chest. I eventually bit the bullet and made a big ole Facebook post a few weeks before the release date.

In retrospect, there was no need to be nervous. Everyone I know has been incredibly lovely and enthusiastic, particularly my fellow law school friends. One of the booksellers at the Lygon Street Readings let me know that she’d had a lot of people come in to grab a copy of Little Stones after proclaiming they’re at uni with the author. So, receiving that support from the MLS contingent has been pretty cool.

For those who want to know a bit more about the book itself, here’s the blurb:

Hannah lives in Zimbabwe during the reign of Robert Mugabe: it’s a country of petrol queues and power cuts, food shortages and government corruption. Yet Hannah is lucky. She can afford to go to school, has never had to skip a meal, and lives in a big house with her mum and their Shona housekeeper. Hannah is wealthy, she is healthy, and she is white. But money can’t always keep you safe.

As the political situation becomes increasingly unstable and tensions within Hannah’s family escalate, her sheltered life is threatened. She is forced to question all that she’s taken for granted, including where she belongs.

When I’m not a law student, I have an unhealthy obsession with US politics

Did I spend at least four hours of my winter holidays watching the two Democratic debates? Did I also spend twice as long devouring post-debate commentary? Yes and, ashamedly, yes. I’d like to say I only keep abreast of the news because of America’s undeniable importance in the global arena, and the fact that Australia tends to take a lot of its own political queues from the so-called ‘leader of the free world’. But part of me is really just drawn to the theatrics of it all.

Australian politics is more down-to-earth (or at least endeavours to be); sheep-shearing and onion-biting on the campaign trail, nicknames like ScoMo and K-Rudd and old mate Tones. American politics, with its celebrity endorsements, late night show recaps and the unlimited amount of money special interest groups can sink into fiery campaign ads is so much more of a spectacle. Perhaps the obsession can simply be chalked up to my love of a good TV drama?

US political doco recos:

  • Knock Down the House (focuses on the primary campaigns of progressive democrats who ran for Congress in the 2018 midterms – lots of great Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez content, get ready for a cry)
  • Weiner (focus here is on Anthony Weiner’s campaign for Mayor. Excellent and very honest insight but you’ll probably find yourself repeating ‘seriously, dude?’ several times out loud)
  • Fahrenheit 9/11 (I’m a pretty big Michael Moore fan in general but if I had to pick just one of his films to recommend, it’s this wry and brutal look at the Bush administration post-9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan)

Lizz is a second year JD student. Check out her website for reviews, interviews and upcoming events: elizabethkuiper.com

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